7/15/03

Copy of letter to Cultural Affairs Commission regarding
QUESTIONABLE RANKING PRACTICES in determining which
landmark LA freeway murals receive GRAFFITI REPAIR FUNDS.:

Dear Cultural Affairs Commission:

I am writing to inquire about the policy of repainting subsidies of landmark LA City freeway murals.

On July 13th, I called to learn about which freeway murals were to receive funds for repair. I was told by Pat Gomez that one of my murals ranked somewhere down the list, in other words, I received only a vague estimate that my LA Marathon mural on the 10 Freeway at Overland Blvd. ranked nowhere near the top. However, I was told Kent Twitchel's LA Marathon mural on the 405 was on the top of the list. I find this quite disturbing. Can you please explain the ranking process? Who is doing the ranking? What is the set of criteria? Why wasn't each artist notified that his or her work was up for review? What could possibly be the difference that would put two similarly themed murals so far apart in estimated worth?

Ms. Gomez said, "If we answered all these questions (or whatever), then we would have to notify every artist involved." I said, "Yes, that's who it matters to the mostthese are our works of art!" We should certainly be notified and the process explained.
Luckily, the murals I'm known for such as giant Nike murals (Bo Jackson at Hollywood and Vine, 70' X 60' in oils) are too high on buildings to be tagged by graffiti. My mural on the I-10 though is another story. I was told many years ago, by a tagger who didn't realize he was talking with the muralist, "We don't touch that one", referring to my LA Marathon mural, "We leave the good ones alone." I replied with something lame like "You know they are all works of art." Obviously, apparent by the extensive graffiti damage over the years, that was not the rule by which all taggers live.

When I designed the LA Marathon mural "Year 2026" on the I-10 and started painting it on the very morning of the earthquake in 1994, I had (and still have) a very positive vision for Los Angeles: one of racial diversity and harmony, progress, scientific and technical innovation, clean air, a respect for and awareness of nature and strict conservation of limited resources, and even a little good ole LA spirituality (represented by a lone seagull flying out of the mural). My mural speaks of unity and togetherness. I conceived of it during the time of the Rodney King beating, the Reginald Denny beating, and the O.J. trial. It depicts a landscape from East LA to a sunset ocean, the Glendale hills to the Santa Monica Mountains. Even the snow caps of Mount Baldy are back there. It also shows a proud City Hall building in the distance among new futuristic skyscrapers. There too are robots, humans running, and even an anti gravity floating metro rail system that will no doubt be a reality someday. Most of all it was a reflection of my hope for this city, the home I've come to love.

Regarding KT's work, I feel compelled to share that he utilizes a paint-by-number system, and then usually adheres the work to the wall. I don't claim to know every detail of his technique. All I can say is that "Year 2026" was designed by the artist, drawn with charcoal and painted with artist oils on site, in the sun for over 3 months. It's 400' long by 30' high and painted by the artist and two assistants. The I-10 freeway shattered and was closed down on either side of the site due to the '94 Northridge quake. It took over 4 hours a day just to commute to and from the heavily congested and damaged area. It took a lot of sweat, care and sunblock to complete that mural so please understand my emotional reaction to this ranking situation.

Please do not regard my lack of regard for the work of KT as impertinence; I have nothing but praise for many artists who take my breath away, like Richard Wyatt and his mural "Hollywood Jazz" at Capitol Records and the late Eva Cockcroft's "Homage To Siqueiros". Freeway murals such Glenna Avila's 250' long "LA Freeway Kids," or Willie Heron's 90' long "Las Luchas Del Mundo," or John Wehrle's 207' long "Galileo, Jupiter, Apollo" are also in need of attention and protection. I'd rather see any of these refurbished even over my own. I just want to know that all the artists who have made their positive mark on LA's art culture, who don't have the political pull to get a higher ranking, that may not be big players in the city art game, be ranked fairly for repair budgeting. I can't imagine driving around LA without enjoying some of the landmarks that they have contributed to our town.
I'd like to suggest that you split funds equally amongst the existing damaged murals, using a formula involving the combination of complexity, the real cost in creating the art, and square footage. Let it fall where it may. If indeed any artist's funding falls short of those required, let them do the footwork to acquire additional monies.

Please mail me copies of the complete guidelines and criteria governing the ranking of freeway murals in Los Angeles slated or eligible for repair or refurbishment, and all information of public record pertaining to the locations, and creators/artists of said murals, including names, addresses and contact information. I would also like a list of all members of the ranking committee members, as well as all members of any organization, committee or group associated with the award or disbursement of mural funding, and their contact information.

While I don't mean to appear threatening, if I don't receive a satisfactory response, I fully intend to take further action. I will also be sending copies of this letter to the Times and the LA Weekly. Both of these publications featured write-ups of the Marathon mural among many of my other works.

Artfully,

Ramiro Fauve
Fauve Creations
Cc: LA Times
LA Weekly

©2003 Fauve Creations

 

7/15/03

Dear City Desk:

LA's A Tough Client
by Ramiro Fauve
Fauve Creations
Bo Jackson/Nike mural at Hollywood and Vine
The 400' long LA Marathon mural "Year 2026",
I-10 freeway near Overland

LA is a challenging place for “Creatives”. We have all the opportunities in the world, but also everyone is fighting desperately for every little piece. You'd think the one place artists would find a little relief is from the organizations set up to help them. Not so in this city.

As a professional artist myself for over 25 years, I know well the daily struggles of an artist. Today, as a freelancer, I still have to wonder where my next client will come from so I can pay my bills at the end of each month, like most anyone trying to make a living in Los Angeles. The art scene here takes as much PR work and drive as the release of any motion picture. You have to scratch and claw your way to a white wall space the way an agent has to bribe his way to the top of a guest list.
Who will my next client be? Who will support my craft? Who will give me the chance to shine in my chosen profession? Usually it is a corporation, like Nike or Reebok, looking for a giant mega-mural, or a big movie studio looking to promote their latest blockbuster, maybe a production company needing a replica of the Mona Lisa or a portrait of a movie star for the set of their next commercial. Or maybe a set company needing a backdrop or painted graphic. Perhaps a client needs our computer graphics department for web design, or logo work, or a character created. With projects as unpredictable and varied as the city, you never know what yer gonna git.

When you do get that call, however, they say, "Hi, we've heard of you. We know what you do and we need your talents". You give your bid, you get the job, you do it to their satisfaction, you move on to next month's mortgage payment. That's the way it should work. That's how you move along, getting better at what you do: expanding your client base and building your name. If you're playing the game right, you do your job well and you get called again.

For some reason, the institutions that dole out art projects in this city, such as the Department of Cultural Affairs, MCLA and SPARC don’t seem to think this is a good working model. As we spend each day struggling to keep our plates spinning, in comes one of those lovely Call To Artists mailers, notifying all the artists throughout the city that there's a new project they can fight over. That is very exciting stuff...until you look at the multitude of hurdles you will have to jump to even be considered for the project. It's an artistic Everest expedition, and you'd better grab your oxygen mask!

Each time a project arises, one must prove his or her track record in glorious detail. They expect the average artist, who is avoiding Whole Foods because the price of olives is more than their phone bill, to create a design, go and make slide copies of all their work, label them all with an explanation of when, where, who, what and why, a letter of interest, a design, a bio, a complete list of materials needed all sent by mail by a due date that is always just short of yesterday.

Do they think we all have slide duplicators at home? Do they think that we have all the time in the world to burn just to enter what is basically an art contest? Never mind that the budgets we are to work within reflect a time when soda was a nickel. It would be great to have all this luxury time to enter one contest after another all year long in hopes of one little job. And in the event you get awarded this Oscar of art opportunity you will have to do it with a "design team" and untold numbers of community participants.... To some artists the thought of this is akin to group sex with total strangers! You mean I have to show somebody how to mix green????? Maybe this is why, after over 25 years of creating and painting works of art, I can recall only one city mural project I've been party to.

I have to step back a sec and say hey, I have about 3 careers, I'm an overachiever, I am completely immune to the anxiety associated with working with huge design teams and impossible deadlines. I do it all the time. BUT, how's Joe or Jane Artist dealing with this? How are they affording the time energy and expense of trying to snag one of these Golden Butterfly city art projects? The artist that catches one of those in their nets is truly fortunate indeed. I can imagine most artists are sitting there going- you gotta be crazy- who's got that kind of time? An Everest climb...by Monday? Most artists simply don't have the resources to put all those requirements in order. Most artists are going to be intimidated by the process and the conditions. Most artists will simply lose the inspiration just looking up at the height of the mountain. Basically, the fun was just sucked out of it. One can only assume that the under-privileged will have an even harder time getting to the gate.

Fortunately, I have plenty of commercial clients to keep my family and me rolling. Companies look at my samples, whether on my website, via printed samples or by viewing my portfolio. They let me do my thing, or tell me what they want to see. I get inspired and deliver. Maybe the City could find a less demanding, stifling, bureaucratic method for sharing monies and opportunities with deserving artists. Maybe they could keep files on hand so that an artist would not have to resubmit with every new project. Maybe the panels could be more diverse in their backgrounds in order to allow a wider range of artistic views and approaches. Maybe then, our unknown and sometimes talented youths would not be so desperate to communicate and express that they resort to voicing their views through graffiti on every available surface. Maybe then we might in this City of Art see creations that are not SO restrained, conformist, tame, processed, screened, dictated, directed, censored, and designed by politically driven committees and review boards. Maybe more real artists would emerge with their odd colors and shapes and help make this desert town a little more interesting.

The City, like any other client, like the Church was client to many great artists like Michelangelo, often holds the purse strings. Now maybe the purse could be brought down a bit closer to street level.

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Ramiro Fauve is an Argentine-born art director, designer, painter and musician known for the giant Nike murals such as the 70' X 60' Bo Jackson mural at Hollywood and Vine, and the 400'-long LA Marathon mural on the 1-10 freeway in Los Angeles. Fauve Associates creates branding and specialty creative projects for film, televison, companies, corporations and private.